During the 80s and 90s, one of the most popular genres for PCs were Adventure Games. With a focus on exploration, story, and problem and puzzle-solving these games created wonderful experiences that end up being pretty memorable. However, it seems that the golden-age adventure games aren’t really the heavy hitters they used to be.
In the early days of adventure games there were no visuals. As you can see, you interacted with the game by typing in commands. Zork was one of the 1st adventure games, and the first mainstream one. Zork spawned off of some MIT students experimenting and making games. After being released by the company Infocom for many of the home computers of the time, Zork became a classic.
In 1980, On-Line Systems (later famously known as Sierra) published a game called Mystery House. This was the first game developed by Ken and Roberta Williams, a power-house couple of adventure game creators who went on to make such games as, King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest for Sierra. Mystery House added basic visuals to help the player see what they were typing commands about. Sierra later became a heavy hitter in the adventure game world with their famous King’s Quest series. When the first King’s Quest game was released in 1983 it was revolutionary because of it’s well detailed graphics and animation for the time, and the fact that you controlled a character with the arrow keys. Eventually, games developed more ways for players to interact with the worlds within them.
In 1984, an adventure game called Enchanted Scepters was released for the Apple Macintosh. Like the adventure games before it, your environment was described with text and shown by a picture. The only difference that Scepters had was that you could interact with your surroundings by clicking on things. Enchanted Scepters revolutionized the adventure game genre. Pretty soon most adventure games were point-and-click, with King’s Quest switching over in 1990. In 1987, however, a game came out from a little company called LucasArts.
George Lucas, best known for directing the Star Wars films, created LucasFilm Games in 1982. After making some small games for Atari and early PCs they made their first game in 1987. Maniac Mansion was innovative because it was the big point-and-click adventure game that hit mainstream audiences. Maniac Mansion had a system where you select a “verb” and then would click on an object to do that “verb” on the said object. With this system, LucasFilm Games (more famously known as LucasArts would make so many classics. Eventually, however, adventure games became less and less mainstream and the genre died down in the late 90s.
In the late 90s the adventure game declined. With the rise of Doom, the FPS became the dominant genre on PC. In the mid-2000s, Japanese adventure games and visual novels (which may or may not be adventure games depending on your preference) gained popularity in America. However, today, when people think of adventure games they usually think of Telltale. Telltale began with The Walking Dead. Set in the world of the AMC TV show of the same name, Telltale focused more on story and characters than the puzzles of golden-age adventure games, and released them in episodic format. Telltale has become very popular in the recent years with many titles under their belts. However, even with the rise of adventure games yet again, nothing has come close to giving us the feeling of the classic LucasArts adventure games. However, two men have now embarked on a quest to fill that exact desire.
Thimbleweed Park is a game by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. These two men were the head directors of the original Maniac Mansion. They have set out to create a game that echoes back to the golden age of adventure games, and looks suspiciously similar to a game developed by the two almost 30 years ago. Hopefully, Thimbleweed Park can bring back the wonderful humor and puzzles that were ever-present in classic adventure games.